With the threat of a government shutdown looming, a coalition representing 3,200 organizations looking to stave off cuts to public services threw its support behind an alternative, short-term spending plan Thursday put forth by U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD, 8), the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee.
Van Hollen's proposal would replace the sequester for fiscal year 2014 through a "balanced approach" of spending cuts, including slashes to agriculture and oil company subsidies, and revenue increases. It would fund the government through November 15 at the level laid out in the Budget Control Act of 2011, or $1.058 trillion.
NDD United, which represents the organizations invested in education, public health and other interests, called Van Hollen's proposal a "step in the right direction" in the continuing effort to end sequestration for good.
“Of course we should ensure that our government continues getting funded, and of course we should avoid anything that makes the pain of the sequester permanent. The question is, will lawmakers make the hard choices required to end the next nine years of sequester’s harmful cuts,” asked NDD United Co-Chair Emily Holubowich, the executive director of Coalition for Health Funding, in a statement.
Congress has to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government by October 1, the start of fiscal year 2014, to avoid a government shutdown.
Van Hollen's plan is an alternative to the House Republicans' most recent short-term funding bill introduced Tuesday that included a $988 billion, post-sequestration spending level. But House GOP leaders pulled the bill Wednesday because the votes weren't there due to backlash from Tea Party conservatives who said it did not go far enough to defund the Affordable Care Act. Their issue was that when the short-term spending measure made its way to the Senate, the chamber could scrap the part about defunding ObamaCare.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA, 12) noted on Thursday that the proposals put forth by Republicans thus far are meant to shut down the government, not keep it open.
“Just because you're an anti-government ideologue who's landed in Congress doesn't mean that you should be shutting down the government,” Pelosi said.
The congresswoman went on to say that House Democrats want an opportunity to bring the Van Hollen plan up for a vote.
It's not clear, however, what the House GOP leadership's next move will be regarding a spending bill.
"There are a lot of discussions going on about how to deal with the [continuing resolution] and the issue of Obamacare, and so we're continuing to work with our members," Speaker John Boehner (R-OH,8) said Thursday. "There are a million options that are being discussed by a lot of people. When we have something to report, we'll let you know."
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA,7) plans to announce next week whether a House recess scheduled for the week of September 23 will be cancelled in order for lawmakers to come up with an agreement.
Pelosi warned that if Republicans put forth a proposal that resembles anything close to what they were recently considering, "[you'll see] a strong negative vote on the part of the Democrats.”
Meanwhile, time is ticking away for lawmakers to act, as the fiscal year ends September 30.
“We are a matter of days away from a government shutdown, yet members of House leadership are still playing games with people’s lives,” said NDD United Co-Chair Joel Packer, executive director of the Coalition for Education Funding. “If we can’t find a balanced approach to our nation’s finances — one that ends the dangerous funding levels instilled by the sequester — tens of thousands of Americans are going to lose their jobs. Some of them may be in Congress.”